Elmwood Park senior setter Abby Bitterman has had a deep appreciation for nature since she was a little girl.
Whether it was watching birds or trying to figure out cloud shapes, Bitterman was mesmerized by the natural world. As she got older, she became more interested in extreme weather events.
“I remember one time when we had a softball tournament in Aurora,” Bitterman said. “It was a torrential downpour and there was lighting everywhere. We were on the bus and the other girls were freaking out. I was just staring out the window. I thought it was so incredible.”
That’s why Bitterman — a three-sport athlete who excels in the class room and scored 32 on her ACT — is prepared to pass up the chance to play sports in college so she can study meteorology.
“I initially wanted to play softball in college and I talked to some coaches but I want to be a meteorologist and the schools where I would play softball don’t offer that as a major,” she said. “I already have a full [academic] scholarship to the University of Alabama just based on my ACT, but my dream school is the University of Oklahoma. I visited there and I just fell in love with the campus.”
What makes Oklahoma so attractive is the new Radar Innovations Laboratory, a 35,000-square-foot facility that’s part of the Advanced Radar Research Center.
“It’s the center where they’re making improvements and studying different weather radar and maps to help predict storms,” Bitterman said. “I’m interested in helping people get earlier warnings and make sure the predictions are more accurate.”
While helping saves lives is most important to Bitterman, she won’t deny she’s thrilled by chasing weather activity.
“It’s kind of a mixture of both,” she said. “I’m definitely interested in the science behind it, but I also think it’s cool to be in the middle of storms.”
Julie Bitterman is happy with her daughter’s calling, but storm chasing worries. Blame it on Abby Bitterman’s inquisitive mind.
“I’m not too thrilled about [storm chasing], but in Oklahoma if that’s what you want to do, it’s probably a good place to do it,” Julie Bitterman said. “I wish I could take credit for [her curiosity] but she’s always been self-motivated, even before she went to school.
“At Halloween, most kids eat the candy they get. Abigail would collect the candy and sort it. Then she would make bar graphs of how many of each candy she got.”
Abby Bitterman and her Tigers’ teammates are weathering their own storm this season. Elmwood Park has just one win this season. However, Bitterman, who also plays basketball and softball, sees a silver lining.
“We haven’t had a ton of success in terms of wins but we have had a lot of success in terms of skill improvement,” she said. “I think we’ve been able to make a lot of plays in recent games that we couldn’t have made at the start of the season. We’ve learned a lot and have been able to gain confidence. We have games where we have so much energy and we have fun, it just doesn’t turn into a win.”
Elmwood Park head volleyball coach Katie Prechel said Bitterman’s experience is helping the team.
“Abby is one of the most responsible players I’ve ever coached,” Prechel said. “We have a lot of young players and she brings maturity to the team. She holds the girls accountable and is a leader on the court and off.”